eyes of mercy are quicker than the eyes of repentance.” - C. H. Spurgeon.
this section of the Gospel we find that compelling story of repentance and
forgiveness, the Prodigal Son. But first, let us see the context in which it
all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.
Both the Pharisees and the scribes began
to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."
So He told them this parable, saying, "What man
among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave
the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he
finds it? "When he has found it, he lays it
on his shoulders, rejoicing. "And when he
comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them,
'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over
one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no
repentance. "Or what woman, if she has ten
silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and
search carefully until she finds it? "When
she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice
with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!' "In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the
presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
(Luk 15:1-10 NASB)
is quite the fact that Jesus of Nazareth did not seem to care about the
respectability of the people he talked to. Indeed, the Pharisees groused
against him for what they saw as blasphemy – and because it just wasn’t right
for a self respecting rabbi to go to some of those places, eating and drinking
with those people. But as Christ makes clear in this passage, his mission is
to seek and save the lost.
describes the lost in two ways:
are those that wander off. People who come to church, become disaffected
and never really bond – but who still believe. It is our task to round up
are those who are lost not of their own fault. Those who simply don’t
know any better; those who were misled – and then abandoned. It is our
task to diligently find these.
is a difficulty in this. Most Christians think of themselves as decent, upright
folks – the pillars of society that we are supposed to be. People who know
enough to avoid the brothels, bars and blasphemy. Yet Christ’s command is
are to search no matter where. There is no place so dark that the Light
of the World cannot penetrate it.
are to search no matter when. Today is the day and now is the hour of
are to search no matter how. The woman lit a lamp and used a broom. If
it takes car shows and rock-n-roll to bring them in, then so be it.
see here some of God’s character. He leaves the 99 to chase after the one; he
chases each of us, individually. His concern is for the lost first; the
righteous are always with Him.
the story of the coin we see something else. Remember, the sheep wandered away
– but the coin was misplaced. It wasn’t the coin’s fault. So it is with many
today. They simply don’t know any better. But God commands that we sweep
diligently. Light a lamp? Can we see who they are? Use a broom? Perhaps we
need to be more thorough in our approach. Above all else – diligence.
result, however, is great rejoicing. A sinner coming home is cause for the
party to begin. As we shall see.
is one of the most familiar stories in the Bible. We begin with the younger
He said, "A man had two sons. "The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give
me the share of the estate that falls to me.' So he divided his wealth between
them. "And not many days later, the younger
son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country,
and there he squandered his estate with loose living. "Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine
occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. "So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens
of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. "And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the
pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. "But when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of
my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with
hunger! 'I will get up and go to my father, and
will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as
one of your hired men."' "So he got up
and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw
him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. "And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against
heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
(Luk 15:11-21 NASB)
we take this in three easy steps? Before, Changing and After.
thing is clear about this younger son: he rejects the way his father does
things. The father is likely enough a hard worker; the kid is lazy. He wants
to party without have to work to earn it. This form of rebellion hasn’t gone
away. I’m reminded of Dennis the Menace running away from home – and asking
his mother to drive him.
is at its very root rebellion against God – a rejection of the things God
intends. It is a curious thing: we rebel against the commands gives us for
our own good – and then complain when suffering results. God uses pain and
suffering for his purposes. It is very inconvenient to those of us who feel we
have to do it our way.
prodigal now comes to his senses. We may discern three things of use:
his thoughts give rise to action. He could have wallowed in self-pity,
promising God to become much wiser. Sometimes we think that as long as we
repent in our minds, that’s all God could want. It is not so; repentance
must lead to action, or it is just a dream.
notice that this is a rational decision. The boy reasons from the facts.
There is no sense that an emotional altar call is involved; he reasons
logically about his situation. That is what is meant by “coming to his
his decision tells us again that we are not self-sufficient – and the more
we try to be, the more God makes it clear we cannot.
an interesting parallel: the view the prodigal takes of his father, and the
view many of us have – or had – of God. The prodigal thinks that his father
will deal with him in the way he deserves. We know that God will punish us if
we ever repent, right? No, God is merciful.
the boy prepares “the speech”. We get the full picture. He makes two points:
sin is not just against his father – but also “against heaven.” All sin
is offensive to God.
is a rejection of any thought that by his repentance he has earned a place
at the family breakfast table. On the contrary, he has humbled himself.
is an extraordinary picture of God:
"So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a
long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and
kissed him. "And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against
heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' "But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out
the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his
feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and
let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine
was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they
began to celebrate.
(Luk 15:20-24 NASB)
eyes of mercy are quicker than the eyes of repentance indeed. Do you not see
that the father sees his son a long way off – and therefore must have been
looking for him? It is that way with God; long before we see him by faith, he
is looking after us. Indeed, as many of us could verify, God is often dealing
with us by his favor long before we recognized it.
way is even more remarkable for this: he does not send the uninvolved to
repair the family; he comes himself. Indeed, in all the Scripture there is
only one place where God is pictured as running – right here. Consider how
great his mercy must be, if he sees the prodigal returning and then runs to
meet him. This is the attitude God wants.
one thing: the party is dad’s idea. There is more rejoicing in heaven for the
one than for the 99. Indeed, the “worthiness” of the son is not even mentioned
– by anyone but the son. Dad puts the ring on the finger, sandals on the feet,
new clothes for the rags and then orders up the party. In short, he showers
upon this undeserving son all the blessings that a happy father can bestow.
His son is home; his heart is glad of it.
"Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and
approached the house, he heard music and dancing. "And he summoned one of the
servants and began inquiring what these things could be. "And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your
father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and
sound.' "But he became angry and was not
willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. "But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so
many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of
yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might
celebrate with my friends; but when this son of
yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the
fattened calf for him.' "And he said to
him, 'Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. 'But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of
yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.'"
(Luk 15:25-32 NASB)
is an interesting comparison to be made between the two brothers. One thing is
clear: they both are self-centered. The older brother is bent out of shape,
and we should examine his motives and complaints:
big complaint is that he’s been treated unfairly. Remember the laborers
in the vineyard? He’s born the work, the kid had all that fun. It’s not
fair. He’s right, it isn’t. Mercy is never justice. To complain of this
misses the point entirely.
holds an over estimate of his own worth. He sees himself as the loyal
worker – one who never got anything he didn’t work for. Generosity is
seen as foolishness; good things are to be earned. And those who do so
are obviously worth people. Self made men are often do it yourself kits.
holds his brother in contempt; he blames him for this injustice.
short, he’s self-righteous.
I point out one little fact that is often overlooked? The father runs to meet
the younger son – he also goes out to meet the older son. He’s treating them
both as sinners.
older brother knows that it’s all his kid brother’s fault. Dad knows it too;
it’s just that he chooses to ignore it. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
may we say at the end of this?
wrong is still wrong; nothing here erases the sin – but forgiveness is
ready for this sinner.
is a gift from God – which we should imitate. Hate the sin, love the
is no thought whatever on how to deal with a sinner who is not repentant.
the father runs to the repentant – even to the repentant self-righteous.